The classic cat and mouse game. You can imagine this idiom in one of two ways. Maybe you think of it as a guy chasing a girl for her affection, being thwarted, enduring failed attempts, but persevering nonetheless. Or, as a cat parent, you think of it as an actual cat and mouse chase, where your cat craves the capture of the mouse, sprints about the house at night being thwarted by the mouse’s escapes, always to-be-continued.
But what happens when this game ends? Because when I say “ends,” I mean, what happens when the cat finally succeeds and its prize is a nice mouthful of mouse carcass? The cat may be extremely proud of his triumph, but if this cat is your pet, it is not all fun and games anymore. You are left with a dead mouse sitting on your doorstep and a feline murderer sitting on your couch.
Ok, no, your cute, cuddly kitten is not some death-obsessed maniac. He’s just going by his instincts as a natural born hunter. As kittens, feral cats are taught by their mothers to kill and sometimes play with their prey. If your indoor, domesticated cat comes within paw’s reach of a mouse, this instinct will trigger deep-seated pleasure centers and your cat could quite possibly go hunt crazy.
The Thrill of the Hunt
Cats have a desire to catch things and hunt. This is why cats adore playing with toys that tease them, such as a streamer on the end of a pole or a mouse toy being held in front of their face. This is also why cats pounce on wagging toes or fingers in their line of vision. If they feel as if something is going to escape their grip, they want it even more.
Not surprisingly, outdoor cats are more likely to catch prey and present them as gifts than indoor cats. But if an indoor cat gets a hold on a cute little creature, you can bet that they will pounce on the opportunity just as their ancestors before them would.
Cats are hypothesized to torture and and play with their prey for a couple reasons. First, cats want to make sure their catch is completely dead, so there’s no risk of it attacking them when their guard is down. It is also thought that they play with their prey as a sort of prolonged victory celebration—they have overcome their enemy and won the battle! Even if they do not consume their prize, they still want to enjoy the game of it.
A Special Gift Just for You
But the real question is, why does my cat present the carcass as a gift to me? Well actually, when a mother cat kills dinner for her family, she offers it to them wholeheartedly, and does not eat it herself. She drops it at the paws of her kittens for them to dig in. Her gesture of leaving this dead mouse on your doorstep, at your feet, or even possibly in your bed, is actually an act of kindness. She considers you part of her family and would rather offer you her killing than consume it on her own.
There are a few ways to prevent dead mice from showing up at your doorstep. The number one way to prevent your cat from being the natural born hunter that he is is to keep him inside as an indoor cat. Less time outside means reduced availability of a hunting ground.
Although you may keep your cat inside, you might also supply time for him to explore the great outdoors as well. In this case, it is advised to tie a bell around his collar to provide his prey with a warning that he is on the prowl. Bells will scare away most mice and birds, thwarting his attempts to sneak up on his prey. In this way, your cat can indulge his hunting instincts, but you are reducing the likelihood he’ll be successful and you’ll have a carcass sitting on your doorstep.
Simulate the Hunt
It is also advised to play with your cat in a way that satisfies her cat-and-mouse chase desires.
You can do this by making or buying any type of interactive pet toy that simulates a sneaking prey. Look for the type of toy that you can move in front of your cat’s face, like a streamer or a ball on a string. Your cat will enjoy the tease and want to take down the object, which is much better than taking down a live animal (or your feet as you come around the corner). Your cat can let out his pent up hunting energy on something safe and satisfying, as opposed to injuring a human or animal. He will also get some exercise and you will get to spend some quality time with your pet.
Dogs chase cats, cats chase mice… The chasing game might be used as an metaphorically in our human lives, but it is still literal for our feline friends. Instinct is tough to overcome, so channel it in a way that is efficient, entertaining, and safe for the entire family.